Has Juniper Missed the Backhaul Boat?

Juniper's access box with mobile backhaul synchronization might be the right product at the wrong time, reckons industry analyst

February 7, 2012

3 Min Read
Has Juniper Missed the Backhaul Boat?

PARIS -- MPLS and Ethernet World Congress -- Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) proudly unveiled its new ACX access routers here Tuesday, telling Light Reading that the product boasted a number of industry firsts. (See Juniper Takes MPLS Into Mobile Access.)

The most important "first," says Juniper product marketing VP Luc Ceuppens, is that the ACX devices are the only access boxes suitable for mobile backhaul deployments that integrate synchronization technology, which enables mobile operators to backhaul their voice traffic over packet connections with the same levels of quality as with traditional, reliable TDM connections.

Juniper has been able to do this by incorporating the 1588v2 and Synchronous Ethernet (SyncE) capabilities inherited with the acquisition of Brilliant Telecommunications for just US$4.5 million a year ago. (See Juniper Outbids Rival in M&A Swoop and Synchronization Still a Mobile Backhaul Challenge .)

(Not surprisingly, Ceuppens refers to that particular piece of M&A action as "the Brilliant acquisition." And who wouldn't?)

What mobile operators shifting to packet backhaul networks would get, then, says Ceuppens, is a single box, managed by the Junos operating system, that has up to 60 Gbit/s of backplane capacity, integrated synchronization capabilities at a price that's competitive with equivalent products from key rivals such as Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO).

Not only that, but this pizza box Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) router is, in effect, an extension of the vendor's MX metro routers, so deploying the ACX extends the MPLS network all the way to the base station. (See Juniper Beefs Up Its MX Routers and Juniper, Cisco Add Router Ammo.)

So by extending the aggregation network all the way to the edge, Juniper is in effect killing the backhaul connection? "Yes," says Ceuppens. "Well … it does away with backhaul…"

That's quite a compelling concept and, indeed, Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Patrick Donegan says the ACX ticks an awful lot of boxes for mobile operators.


"In principal, Juniper has something interesting. There's a logic to the product, extending Juniper's platform and integrating the Brilliant technology, which had a reputation as the most mature 1588v2 implementation," says Donegan, leaving a massive "but" hanging in the air (so to speak).

"But …" -- and there it is -- "Juniper is way too late to the market. Two years ago this would have been dynamite. Now it's just a competitive product. As a differentiator, the Brilliant technology has lost its lead -- the rest of the market has closed the gap. Cisco, Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA) and others have had a feeding frenzy in the mobile backhaul market during the past few years and that opportunity has passed Juniper by. So, it looks like a good product, but it's just too late," concludes the analyst.

The ACX is in beta trials at the moment and is due to be commercially available around mid-2012.

Oh, and the other "first" for the product? Juniper believes it is the first to have a 10GigE port on an access product. "Others say they are 10GigE-ready, but we have the port built into the product," says Ceuppens.

Except the RAD Data Communications Ltd. ETX-220A Carrier Ethernet access device is out there already.

So that's a "nearly-but-not-quite first" for the ACX, then...

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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